Monday, October 17, 2005

FH parents object to nonresident students

Back in August I wrote about Northview School system's attempts to deal with a newly diverse the student population due in part to its schools of choice participation. I have one daughter in the high school here.

Recently, Forest Hills, my other daughter's school, made front-page news with the fuss parents are kicking up about the high number of nonresident students there. As a result, superintendent Mike Washburn has shut down nonresident enrollments while they examine the situation.

Forest Hills Northern HS parents complained in recent public meetings that the freshman class is made up of 22% nonresident students. Overall, Northern's percentage of nonresident students is 14%. Why the complaints? From the Grand Rapids Press article:

"Nonresident parents don't tend to get involved like resident parents," said Lorraine Bigelow, mother of a freshman and sophomore. "That could hurt you in fundraising.

"I don't see them at band booster meetings."

She also wonders about academic skills and whether Northern would reduce Advance Placement classes if it doesn't have enough qualified students.

"If you're bringing in students who aren't up to par, you have to do something," Bigelow said.

I'm reading between the lines here, and it ain't pretty. The article goes on:

... But the arrival of unfamiliar faces apparently unnerved some parents of Northern ninth-graders.

"The parents aren't sure what levels these kids are at," said Rose Pucci, mother of a freshman. "If the teachers have to spend more time with them, getting them up to pace, we don't know for sure, but it is a concern. .. "

To be fair, not everyone shares the sentiments of Bigelow and Pucci:
Rhonda Datema, who has children in district schools that feed Northern, attended the Oct. 6 meeting and felt "embarrassed" by the criticism.

"Parents are spreading a vicious virus throughout the Northern community," Datema said. "I'm tired of the negativeness on the phone, at soccer games, at the bus stop. We're only damaging our kids."

Even so, FH parents have enough misgivings to cause the administration to shut down nonresident enrollments for the time being.

Which is a shame. On all of us.


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